From the Office of State Senator Rodney Ellis

For Immediate Release
February 15, 1999
Contact: Jeremy Warren, (512) 463-0113

Senator Rodney Ellis Calls for Performance Review of Hospital District
Bipartisan coalition asks for answers on uninsured in greater Houston area

(AUSTIN) -- State Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) today called for a performance review of the Harris County Hospital District by the State Comptroller. The review will judge whether the district is meeting the health care needs of needy Texans.

Senator Ellis was joined by a bipartisan coalition of Harris County legislators in requesting a performance audit, including Senators Mario Gallegos, Jon Lindsay and John Whitmire, and Representative Garnet Coleman.

"I have informed State Comptroller Rylander of our intention to seek a performance review of the Harris County Hospital District," Senator Ellis announced. "With so many uninsured in the Houston area, it is imperative that we get a strong, thorough review as to whether the policies of the District serve the maximum number of eligible Texans."

Access to quality, affordable health insurance has been a longstanding problem in Texas, particularly in the greater Houston area. Recent studies have shown that Houston leads the nation in the number of uninsured, with more than one-third of non-elderly Harris County residents lacking insurance.* Across Texas, the working poor have been hardest hit by the lack of available health insurance. According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, 800,000 Texas working parents have no health insurance.

"While I agree that local leaders may be in a better position to diagnose and correct the health care problems of the district, more leadership from the Capitol is clearly needed," said Senator Ellis. "The legislature created the Harris County Hospital District, and a health care system that gives a wide range of power and latitude to counties in order to meet their health care needs. If that system is not working it is incumbent on legislators to take action."

In 1995, Senator Whitmire spearheaded an effort to increase accountability at the Houston Independent School District by requiring a performance review. The successful audits helped launch numerous improvements at HISD.

"This matter goes far beyond Lois Moore. I have been supportive of Ms. Moore and her strong, credible relationship with the legislature. Whether she remains with the Hospital District or moves on is a matter between her and the board. My chief concern is the performance of the District. The legislature needs some answers if we are to help more Texans get access to health care."

* (Source: Employee Research Benefit Institute, December 1998)